Kirstin Downey, a 2001 Nieman Fellow, has written a biography of Queen Isabella of Castile, an influential and controversial monarch known for presiding over the Inquisition and supporting Christopher Columbus’s trip to the New World. The biography, titled “Isabella: The Warrior Queen,” also examines how Isabella transformed Spanish politics, bringing that sphere from “medieval to modern management principles.” It was published in October by Nan A. Talese.
Downey is also the author of “The Woman Behind the New Deal,” a biography of Frances Perkins, a woman who served as Secretary of Labor under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The book, published in 2009 by Nan A. Talese, argues that it was Perkins who masterminded key elements of the modern American social safety net–benefits such as unemployment insurance and Social Security.
Downey was a longtime staff writer for The Washington Post, for which she covered the real estate industry as well as labor and workplace issues. While at the Post, Downey was part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that covered the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. She left the Post in 2009 to focus on her book project. In more recent years, and in addition to working on her books, Downey served on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, an investigative committee appointed by the federal government to create a report on the causes of the recent financial crisis.